DANNY LOU EVANS
November 20, 1940 – January 29, 2022
Dan Evans passed away peacefully at the age of 81 at his home in Longview, Washington on January 29th.
The youngest of 5 siblings, Dan was born in Longview on November 20, 1940, to Lewis and Katie Evans. Lewis was a highly regarded old-school lumberman who purchased timber for the Long-Bell Lumber Company. He was never without his fedora and he loved to bareknuckle box – often in the bars. Dan’s doting mother Katie held their family of 7 together, but unfortunately, she passed away early from illness when Dan was in the 8th grade. Dan’s high school years were difficult as he navigated an unsteady home life and was raised by his older siblings. He remained extremely close to his older siblings and their families for the rest of his life.
Dan graduated from RA Long HS in 1959 as a 3-year letter winner and standout basketball and baseball player. Affectionately called “Danny Lou”, he was a skinny point guard and fast center fielder with a hot temper and the nickname “Bird Legs.” Many of his closest friends date back to these golden high school years.
Dan attended the University of Washington and earned a BS in Chemical Engineering in 1966. He was a proud member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity and worked summers in the mills while taking extra classes at LCC to help with tuition. During college, he tended bar at The Looking Glass where he was known for hustling people on the shuffleboard table and worked the night shift as an orderly at the Firland TB Sanatorium. Dan said, “the hours at the TB Ward were good, and my co-workers were always good-natured despite their circumstances.” Through the Greek system, he was re-introduced to Jackie Evans who was also from Longview. Jackie was a graduate of Mark Morris HS and the oldest daughter of Jack and Aileen Kelly. She and Dan married in 1965 and moved to California where Dan worked for Standard Oil and Jackie worked as an RN in public health.
In 1970, Dan took a leave of absence from the refinery and relocated to Eugene where he would earn his MBA at the University of Oregon and start a family with the birth of son Mason. For his thesis, Dan developed a bidding strategy for construction contractors. Soon after graduation, Dan returned to Longview and purchased JH Kelly Plumbing and Heating from his father-in-law, Jack Kelly. Dan was quick with math, and contracting was a good career choice because he loved people and he loved to gamble.
He and Jackie had 2 more sons – Ean and Hayden–and focused on raising their family and growing the business throughout the 70’s and 80’s. Dan recruited fellow engineers Larry Peterson and Chuck Stronach from Standard Oil who joined Terry Major to lead a team of hardworking Craftsmen, Superintendents, and PM’s that would grow JH Kelly from the 2nd largest plumbing shop in Longview to a regional construction company with well over 1,000 employees. JH Kelly’s reputation for treating its employees like family comes from Dan. He remembered everyone’s birthday and insisted on signing the paychecks by hand – often leaving notes of encouragement for his loyal employees. He considered everyone family and was as comfortable with the shop kids as he was with the Superintendents and Customers.
In the 90’s, Dan backed his good high school friend Jerry Adams who teamed with Warren Youel to run Valley Rentals – a construction equipment business in Arizona. They expanded from 1 to 7 branches before selling the company in 1997. They had a tremendous amount of fun growing the business – often taking important customers fishing in Mexico. Dan loved fishing because it was an excuse to be on a boat and laugh with friends. Through the years, he owned several boats – big or small, he was never able to dock one on his own.
In 2002, Dan promoted Mason to run JH Kelly. It was a proud moment for Dan, and Mason is still at the helm today. Dan loved to go visit Ean and Hayden in Bend. With the help of longtime family advisor Mark Fleischauer, Dan and the boys invested in real estate and several startup companies. Dan loved to spend time with his boys and their families. They enjoyed lots of fun trips together and he was delighted to go on adventures with his grandkids and watch them play soccer.
Despite great success and fun times raising a family, Dan and Jackie divorced in 2012. Although tough at the time, they cared for each other and found ways to show support after their marriage ended. They both shared a love for their hometown and a strong desire to make it a thriving community.
Through the early years of JH Kelly, Dan met Sharon Bergman, whom he married in 2015. They were a great match for each other. Together, they shared a lot of laughs and travelled extensively to Belize, Mexico, and throughout the US. Sharon and Dan loved to spend time at Long Beach where Dan got a kick out of digging razor clams and keeping tabs on the fishing fleet. Sharon was caring and present through Dan’s recent health challenges – always supporting him while enjoying each other’s company.
Dan loved to play blackjack and later slots when he couldn’t play “21” to his high standards anymore. He considered playing cards an art form and found many metaphors for life in gambling. Dedicated to his craft, Dan made it to the casino four days before he passed.
Dan loved animals and requested to have the ashes of his many dogs interned with him. In addition to dogs, Dan’s favorite animals were the majestic Blue Heron- because of its fierce independence and pigs – because they’re smarter than they look.
Considering himself an underdog in life, Dan always tried to help hard working young people who started at the bottom like he did. He was a humble guy and couldn’t stand people who were elitists or hurtful to minorities. Dan supported numerous local charities – much of it anonymously. There are countless stories of Dan helping friends with tuition, bail money, donations to food banks, and numerous community projects. Although he wore a purple UW baseball hat with pride, Dan thought college was too expensive for most folks and took great pride in getting kids into apprenticeship programs through the building trades.
Dan was a lifelong pipe smoker who preferred cheap Carter Hall tobacco and was notoriously fidgety trying to keep his pipe lit – often while driving. He never drove a fancy car, loved road trips, and if he could manage, he would try to get some Willie Nelson on the radio.
Dan put in a full shift – those were 81 hard-drinking, high stress, and fun-loving contractor years. He never complained about his health, always asked about your family first, and considered himself damn lucky in life. Dan was a smart man without being boastful, a generous man while remaining humble, and a funny man who was usually laughing at himself.
Dan is survived by his wife Sharon Bergman Evans, his 3 sons Mason (Mary), Ean (Tiffany), and Hayden, his ex-wife Jackie, his brother Jim (Myrna) , and nephews (Billy Evans, Bruce Dundas, Doug Halvorsen, Dave Halvorsen, Jerry Halvorsen) and nieces (Kay Dundas, Laurel Henderson, Jane Mancino). He was very proud of his 5 grandkids (Connor, Danny, Maggie, Luke, and Everett). In addition to his parents, Dan was preceded in death by his sisters Nadine (Ken) Dundas and Catty (Fred) Halvorsen as well as his brother Bill (Norma) Evans and nephew Stanley Halvorsen.
Dan was recognized with the Moulton Medal for Distinguished Alumni by the UW’s Chemical Engineering department. He was Benefactor of the Year at Lower Columbia College and inducted into the RA Long HS Hall of Fame. When asked, Dan always said his most difficult job was being President of Cowlitz Little League where he navigated a scandal with the all-star ballots and ran a successful sting operation in the snack bar.
He never had a retirement party, so we will send Dan off in style at a Celebration of Life on Saturday, April 23rd at the Cowlitz Convention Center from 1-5pm. All are invited. It will be a fun casual event with good friends and good stories.
If you want to make a charitable gift in honor of Dan, he suggests “you pick one you like and don’t worry about me.”